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Criterion recommendations

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ari, Sep 4, 2005.

  1. Ari

    Ari Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 3, 1999
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    It's been a long while since I was on acquisition mode for Criterion titles (got married, bought a house, new baby, new business, etc.). I'm looking to get updated on Criterion releases that I missed and am looking for recommendations. I'm not a Criterion "fan" per se...there are certainly some titles that still boggle me but in general I like 'em. Aside from the entertainment value of the film itself, I enjoy watching movies that are considered milestones and enjoy the whys and wherefors answered by the extras. I'm looking for recommendations on what to get and the significance of the title recommended.

    Here are the titles that I have:

    Chasing Amy
    Hard Boiled
    The Killer
    Life of Brian
    Nights of Cabiria
    The Passion of Joan of Arc
    The Red Shoes
    Seven Samurai
    The Seventh Seal
    Silence of the Lambs
    The Third Man
  2. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

    Jul 21, 2003
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    You have three of my favorite Criterions in "Rebecca", "The Third Man" and "Spartacus"...

    That said, I would have to give my highest recommendation to the 1941 film "Sullivan's Travels". It's a multi-faceted story about a wealthy Hollywood director who decides to experiment with living life as a forgotten man (hobo). It runs the gamut from sophisticated comedy to slapstick to melodrama and back again, but is ultimately a remarkable film from Preston Sturges (one of the first directors to write all of his own scripts) with an excellent message and equal parts homages and jabs at Hollywood and the film industry. The dialogue -- including it's payoff closing line -- sparkles in a way that was rarely seen again until Paddy Chayefsky ("Network") started writing for the silver screen. The cast, from lead Joel McCrea to the stunningly cute Veronica Lake to the supporting cast of Sturges' signature players is top-notch.

    The Criterion includes a feature-length doc/biography of Sturges, which is part of PBS' "American Masters" series. Highly enjoyable. There are also many other great extras on here, including a multi-participant commentary (all of whom were recorded separately and then spliced in equally) with historians and Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, who are both big Sturges fans. Overall, I'd have to think it's one of most extras-packed Criterions for a single-disc release.

    I did this one as a blind buy, and it instantly found its way into my top 15 or so films. It's that good.

    If you like it, that opens the door for two other Sturges Criterions, "The Lady Eve" and "Unfaithfully Yours". If you like to the enjoy the occasional vintage indie drive-in film, "The Blob" Criterion looks gorgeous. Has a nice little commentary, too. Criterion has also rescued the slapstick classic "My Man Godfrey" from "cheapo public domain release" Hell. If you like slapstick, I'd have to recommend it. Carole Lombard and William Powell are exceptional and the film has the distinction of being the first to garner Oscar noms for all four major acting categories. Rounding out my recommendations for now would be David Lean's "Brief Encounter" (1946). If you enjoyed Trevor Howard in "The Third Man", you might like him here as well in this highly-interesting drama which broaches the subject of infidelity.
  3. Alan_H

    Alan_H Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 13, 2004
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    I see you already have The Seventh Seal. I just saw "Wild Strawberries" for the first time a few nights ago. I thought it was outstanding! Highly recommended!
  4. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

    Mar 14, 2001
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    Here are (in no particular order), the best films in the Criterion collection that you don't have IMO.

    The 39 Steps - great early Hitchcock
    Alexander Nevsky - underrated Eisenstein (his best IMO)
    Charade - great Hithcockian film
    Closely Watched Trains - hilarious Czechoslovakina comedy
    Diabolique - another great Hitchcockian film
    Hopscotch - underrated comedy
    The Horse's Mouth - underrated comedy
    The Killers - great film noir
    The Lady Vanishes - more great early Hitchcock
    The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp - one of Powell/Pressburger's best
    M - Lang's best
    M. Hulot's Holiday - first of an amazing comedy trilogy
    Mon Oncle - second in the Hulot trilogy
    The Most Dangerous Game - better than the better-known Kong IMO
    My Man Godfrey - great comedy
    Notorious - great Hithcock
    Playtime - third in the Hulot trilogy
    Rififi - first of the great caper films
    The Rock - underrated action film
    Sanjuro - great Kurosawa comedy
    Spellbound - not top tier Hitchcock, but still excellent
    Sullivan's Travels - great comedy
    The Testament of Dr. Mabuse - sort of a follow-up to M
    Throne of Blood - best Kurosawa you don't already have
    Trouble in Paradise - great Lubitsch comedy
  5. eric tengren

    eric tengren Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 13, 2004
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    discreet charm of the bourgeoise
    knife in the water
    wages of fear
    sid and nancy
    the harder they come
    battle of algiers
    gimme shelter
    life aquatic
    life of brian
    short cuts
    the man who fell to earth
  6. Craig Beam

    Craig Beam Screenwriter

    Oct 16, 2000
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    Gresham, OR
    Real Name:
    Craig Beam
    Hiroshima, Mon Amour
    Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast

    I imagine the entire Criterion collection will eventually be mentioned in this thread. [​IMG] They rarely screw up.
  7. andrew markworthy

    Sep 30, 1999
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    With respect, this is an almost impossible question to answer, because although nearly all Criterions are critically acclaimed, not every title will suit every person (and why should it? different strokes, etc).

    Looking at what you've already got, I'd say that any of the Kurosawa titles you haven't already got are worth getting. I suspect you'd also like the Ozu titles - start with Tokyo Story and work on from there. Ozu is radically different from Kurosawa, but the profundity of vision is just as great (indeed, most Japanese critics would rate Ozu higher). At the risk of sounding trite, Kurosawa saw basic human themes in great events, whilst Ozu found great events in basic human themes. Just see Tokyo Story and you'll get what I mean.

    You also would probably like some of the great Italian films of the 50s/60s - start with Fellini's 8 1/2.

    Pushing my neck out, I suspect you might also like some of the Ingmar Bergman films. Probably the most accessible is Fanny and Alexander (the TV version) but I would personally plunge in at the deep end and get The Seventh Seal. The reaction of 'what the **** is going on' is normal on first seeing Bergman, but repeated viewings (especially with the excellent commentary on the Criterion DVD) introduce you to a far richer and more profound world. [If you get hooked on Bergman and can play R2 discs, there's an excellent issue of his more obscure films on the Brit Tartan label].

    Hope this helps.
  8. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

    Jan 31, 2003
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    As I was making the list below, I began to wonder how helpful it would be, since there are so many must-have titles (IMHO). A lot of it depends on what you look for in a movie, and how much you want to be challenged by directors who chose to work outside of most viewers' comfort zones. Given what you already own, I've underlined the titles that you might want to start with:

    My recommemdations:

    Wes Anderson: Rushmore
    Jacques Becker: Le Trou; Casque d'or
    Ingmar Bergman: Smiles of a Summer Night; Wild Strawberries; A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence; Cries and Whispers; Fanny and Alexander
    Robert Bresson: Diary of a Country Priest; Au Hasard Balthazar
    Luis Buñuel: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
    Marcel Carné: Children of Paradise
    Henri-Georges Clouzot: The Wages of Fear [wait for re-release in October]; Quai des orfèvres; Le Corbeau
    Jules Dassin: Night and the City; Rififi
    William Dieterle: The Devil and Daniel Webster
    Carl Theodor Dreyer: Dreyer Box Set: Day of Wrath, Ordet, Gertrud
    Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul; Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy: The Marriage of Maria Braun; Veronika Voss, Lola
    Federico Fellini: I Vitelloni; 8½; La Strada
    Samuel Fuller: Pickup on South Street
    Jean-Luc Godard: Contempt
    Wong Kar-wai: In the Mood for Love
    Akira Kurosawa: The Hidden Fortress
    Fritz Lang: M
    Jean-Pierre Melville: Le cercle rouge; Le Samouraï [October]
    Maysles brothers, et al: Grey Gardens
    Ermanno Olmi: Il Posto, I Fidanzati
    Yasujiro Ozu: Tokyo Story, Good Morning, Early Summer
    Gillo Pontecorvo: The Battle of Algiers
    Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: Black Narcissus; The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    Jean Renoir: Grand Illusion; The Rules of the Game
    Preston Sturges: The Lady Eve; Sullivan's Travels
    Jacques Tati: Mon Oncle
    Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films: A Generation, Ashes and Diamonds, Kanal
  9. Scott Temple

    Scott Temple Supporting Actor

    Oct 31, 2001
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    Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

    Ebert's review

    Beautiful transfer, letterboxed at 1.66:1. The only disappointment is that it's non-anamorphic. Hopefully, a 16x9 SE will make it to R1, complete with that "Dream Within a Dream" documentary, the seven minutes of deleted footage, and a commentary with Peter Weir.
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    May 16, 2001
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    Georgia (the state)
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    Just from what I have...

    Brazil - Essential film. Terrific, despite somewhat soft non-anamorphic video. The 2.0 surround audio is excellent, as are the supplements. Highly recommended, with exception of the video quality. Universal supposedly has a totally remastered 16x9 master that looks stunning... but it doesn't look like any plan to SE-ize Brazil will happen.

    M (special edition) - Essential film. Nearly flawless video/audio, even for a 1931 film. Most of the audio sounds like it was recorded in the last 10 years! Wonderful. The extras are excellent, too, especially the featurette on the many versions of M.

    The Passion of Joan of Arc - Essential film. Very good video quality for an almost lost film. Keep in mind that it's very damaged in a few spots, but the photographic quality really shines through. However, they used a really tiny bitrate (roughly 4.5 mbps) and it shows on some shots... macroblocking. But the 5.1 score, supplements, are terrific.

    F for Fake - Great film, even if it's not for everyone. Excellent video (possibly the best it can look, due to the nature of the film), terrific audio. The supplements are terrific, especially the Welles documentary about his abandoned projects. One of my favorite films now.

    8 1/2 - Essential film. Flawless video/audio quality. Great supplements, especially the documentaries on disc 2.

    Notorious - Great film, even if it's an early Hitchcock. Skip the Marion Keane commentary and listen to the Rudy Behler one. Lots of great supplements, especially the radio adaptation, music-only track, and others.

    The Hidden Fortress - I didn't really like this film, but it had terrific a/v. Ended up selling it.

    by Brakhage - Great DVD set, but it's a real niche title. I love the hand-painted films. Window Water Baby Moving can be tough to sit through, but it's quite a beautiful film. Flawless video, though.

    Rushmore - I liked it, even if it's not great. Somewhat filtered video, but still terrific.

    The Royal Tenenbaums - Essential film. Excellent DVD set, even if the video is filtered (thank you Disney).

    The Third Man - Essential film and one of my favorite films, period. Great video, even if somewhat flawed (given how awful the source looked, they worked miracles). The audio is flawless, though. Great supplemental material, especially the radio shows and the newsreel segments. This belongs in every DVD collection.

    The Life Aquatic - Good film, great DVD set. Again, video is somewhat filtered. Disney needs to fire their video technicians.
  11. Ari

    Ari Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 3, 1999
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    Thanks for the recommendations.

    I realize that ALL of the Criterion films are critically acclaimed...I'm looking for the ones that are considered milestones or must-haves for the genre, hence the need for an explanation on why that recommendation is being made....
  12. Ralph Jenkins

    Ralph Jenkins Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 14, 2003
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    I don't know if I would call Armageddon critically acclaimed. [​IMG]

    Kidding aside, I'd strongly recommend picking up Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast and Franju's Eyes Without a Face. Those are probably my two personal favorites. The upcoming release of Kurosawa's Ran will probably be golden as well.

    Edit: Both of those films proved to be highly influential for other directors. Eyes Without a Face is a must if you're a horror fan; it's one of the unsung classics of the genre.
  13. Jeff Newcomb

    Jeff Newcomb Second Unit

    Jul 11, 2003
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    If you are looking for milestones (i.e. "cannonized" films), it wouldn't hurt to start with the Sight & Sound poll. Here are the top 25 films from the 2002 list, with Criterion titles in bold.

    Citizen Kane (Welles)
    Vertigo (Hitchcock)
    La Régle du jeu (Renoir)
    The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (Coppola)
    Tokyo Story (Ozu)
    2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
    Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
    Sunrise (Murnau)
    8 1/2 (Fellini)
    Singin' in the Rain (Kelly, Donen)
    Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
    The Searchers (Ford)
    Rashomon (Kurosawa)
    The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
    A bout de souffle (Godard)
    L'Atalante (Vigo)
    The General (Keaton)
    Touch of Evil (Welles)
    Au hasard Balthazar (Bresson)
    Jules et Jim (Truffaut)
    L'avventura (Antonioni)
    Le Mépris (Godard)
    Pather Panchali (Ray)
    La dolce vita (Fellini)
    M (Lang)

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